Paterson Ewen (1925-2002) was a Canadian painter best known for his abstract landscapes and monumental paintings dealing with themes of nature and cosmology. Born in Montreal, Ewen was associated with the mid-century abstraction movement in Quebec. He moved to London, Ontario in 1968, where he lived and worked until his death in 2002.
Ewen briefly attended McGill University, studying geology, but transferred to the School of Art and Design at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1948. It was here that Ewen developed an interest in painting landscapes, inspired by his teachers Arthur Lismer and Goodridge Roberts. While attending the School of Art and Design, Ewen met his first wife, Francoise Sullivan, with whom he had four sons: Vincent, Geoffrey, Jean-Christophe, and Francis. It was through Sullivan that Ewen was exposed to the work of the Surrealist poets and Automatiste abstract painters, such as Jean-Paul Riopelle and Paul-Emile Borduas. Ewen married Sullivan in December 1949, and a few months later left art school, dismissed by Lismer in response to an exhibition of Ewen’s paintings at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Ewen held various part-time jobs to support his family during this period, including caretaker and training coordinator at a box factory and supermarket chain. Ewen and Sullivan divorced in 1968, and he moved to London, Ontario. It was in London that Ewen came into contact with local artists such as Greg Curnoe, Jack Chambers, and David Rabinowitch. Their influence impacted Ewen’s art, as he moved from representational landscapes to a more abstract style. It was around this time when Ewen developed techniques that would be a hallmark of his later works, such as the use of plywood gouged with an electric router as a painting surface. He also began using more unconventional materials in his art, including wire and other metals. In 1972, Ewen began teaching painting at University of Western Ontario, where he met his second wife, Mary Handford. The two married in 1995.
In 1982, Ewen was chosen to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale, and he received other recognition in the form of several awards, including the Chalmers Award for Visual Arts and the Toronto Arts Award. In 1996, the Art Gallery of Ontario mounted a retrospective exhibition of Ewen’s works that travelled to the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art. Ewen’s work is in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada, the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and other museums.